In this issue of my Student Leader Notes, I’d like to introduce an anthology of leadership reflections each inspired by one of the regional student leader’s favorite quotes. Different students, different quotes, different perspectives and experiences—but the common theme of leadership ties it all together. One of the first things I asked the Student Leadership Team to do in order for us to get to know each other was to identify the quotes that resonate with them in their personal leadership journeys. Max Miller and Richelle Williams also asked about quotes that inspire us professionally in our Meet the SLT 2018-2019 #RecChat, which made me think more about how the power of words impacts how we create and develop our professional identities.

Each month, I will reflect on the quote selected by a regional student leader, how that quote relates to our lives as NIRSA members, and consider what we can take away from the conversation. My blog will also feature commentary from NIRSA students from that region to provide additional context and experiences. It is my hope that by bringing in different perspectives we can develop a shared vision for how to keep growing through our own personal leadership journeys.

So without further ado here is the first installment of student leadership reflections, this one selected from Region II Student Leader Corrine Pruett:

“Excellence is never an accident; it is the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, skillful execution and the vision to see obstacles as opportunities.”

This quote is actually Corrine’s favorite motto to live by.

After spending time with Corrine and seeing her workstyle, I know why this quote hits home with her. She is intentional, diligent, and detailed in everything she does. Her sense of commitment and responsibility are high but she doesn’t let the idea of things being perfect get in her way of them being excellent. For example, she realizes that she can control the controllables in her role as a Facility Operations Graduate Assistant, and she does so excellently. However, if something comes up that is not controllable, she doesn’t let the fact that it is imperfect get in the way of achieving success.

Perfection is unrealistic, unattainable, and not a just expectation to give your students. Giving ourselves, team members, and constituents perfect as an example to strive towards is doing ourselves a disservice. Where is the growth in striving towards perfection?

Jordan Robinson, an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida, believes that “Excellence is the result of genuine effort to better yourself for others.” However, Jordan also believes that, “the idea of perfection is made only possible after the lessons of failure.” So maybe we can use perfection as a tool to learn from our mistakes, but it isn’t an effective metric for success.

Justina Young, an undergraduate student at Kennesaw State University, weighs in on the two concepts by saying, “Perfection is doing something right. Excellence is doing it the right way.” Justina is a program assistant for intramural sports. She says, “In my role, I try to show excellence by going above and beyond, being prompt, on time, and doing everything to my fullest ability.”

I think Corrine, Jordan, and Justina’s lenses shed more light on the different connotations these words carry. Whether you prefer perfection or excellence, I implore you to think about the outcome of your conversations or interactions. I think striving for perfection can teach us lessons in our failures, but striving for excellence encourages growth in those failures. Perfection teaches us to just get the answer right or to go to any length to be flawless. I think we put our values and morals at stake in the pursuit of perfection, but the pursuit of excellence is conditional upon upholding those values.

Excellence builds a culture of community by painting the picture of what we can attain as a team if we come together under a banner of values and expectations that bind us to be the best in ourselves, for ourselves, and for others. So, NIRSA family, I encourage you to think about whether you want to expect perfection or excellence from yourself and how you plan on living out that expectation for those that you serve.

You stay classy, NIRSA family!

Graduate Assistant – Facility Operations at University of Mississippi | NIRSA Profile

Caroline Ciell, NIRSA Student Leader, is currently Graduate Assistant – Facility Operations at the University of Mississippi.